After a hiatus of more than eighteen years, summer 2017 saw the triumphant return of 90s Brit pop favourites Sleeper. Featuring not one, but two BIMM Brighton staff members, the band reunited for a string of massively successful live dates around the UK in July/August as part of the StarShaped Festival tour.
Guitarist Jon Stewart (Music Business Course Leader) and drummer Andy Maclure (Creative Performance Coordinator) reflect on the reformation and look ahead to their upcoming show at The Shepherd’s Bush Empire on Saturday 2 December.
How did the reformation of Sleeper first come about?
We’d been asked to do this a few times but until now had declined as we’re are all heavily involved with other things (writing books, running courses, teaching, etc.) and have busy professional and family lives. At almost twenty years since our last shows it seemed a reunion was never going to happen … but then the Starshaped promoters called. They were clearly doing this as fans of the music and we liked the other bands on the bill so thought it would be fun to hang out with them again.
What was it like getting back into the rehearsal room together for the first time after 19 years?
It was during those few hot days in June so very loud and very sweaty. It was also great fun. Bringing the tunes back to life was a fantastic experience. We worked hard on the songs twenty years ago, and that really shows today. It was also refreshing to play with new musicians: two BIMM graduates (Aimee Smith and Nick Evans) and our old friend Kieron Pepper who used to teach Live Performance Workshop (LPW) classes here in Brighton. So, we basically LPW-ed ourselves back into being a band. We also discovered Snyder’s Jalapeno Pretzel Pieces at this time. The Snyder’s became a very important part of the bonding process.
Has the band dynamic changed much since the late 90s?
First time around there are pressures that don’t apply second time around, so twenty years on it’s a little more relaxed and much calmer. There’s no drama and the band idiot (most have them, in Sleeper it was me) is now very sober and relatively well behaved. The songs and lyrics really stand the test of time and it’s been a total joy to play them. Louise is also an amazing front person, and it’s been great to work with her on a large stage again.
What have you made of the overall public response?
There’s a massive amount of good will and an incredibly positive vibe about the whole project. That’s been entirely unexpected and quite overwhelming. Everyone has been super supportive. The pictures and videos on Facebook have been brilliant and that’s been a fantastic tool for interacting with our audience.
What’s been the highlight of the tour?
All the gigs have been fantastic and each had their own special atmosphere to be honest. The London show was truly immense. We never played Kentish Town Forum the first time around, although we used to live next door to it and have seen countless gigs there. It was quite a nerve wracking day because it’s a large venue, it was sold out, and lots of our family members and old friends showed up. We all knew that was going to be something special – and the audience reaction was immense. On the last night in Manchester there was a surprise stage invasion during the Bluetones final song. All the other band members appeared with their children kicking balloons and throwing streamers into the audience. That was another truly beautiful moment.
You’ve got a headline show in London in December. Could this be the start of more regular gigs for you guys?
The gigs have gone brilliantly and there’s lots of interest in more shows so, yes, this has momentum and will probably continue. We’re excited about the possibility of new songs and maybe a new album next year too.
Tickets for the upcoming show at Shepherd’s Bush are in limited supply, so bag yours now before it’s too late!